Water heating systems hot targets for thieves

Thieves are targeting home water heaters, according to the latest statistics from AMI.

The costliest home burglary claims arise from the theft of water heating systems, new AMI data reveals.

In several cases, hot water cylinder thefts have led to damages exceeding $200,000 after water has been left to flood out from exposed pipes, the data shows.

“More than 500 water heating units are stolen from houses, every year,” says AMI consumer brands executive general manager Paula ter Brake.

“These essential household systems are incurring extensive damage to homes when being stolen, particularly due to flooding.”

The team at AMI HomeHub suggest that water heating units are attractive targets for house burglars due to their easy removal with basic tools.

“Our repair experts at AMI HomeHub also note that hot water cylinders and copper water pipes and gutters are likely targeted for the scrap value of the copper.

“In most cases, exterior gas water heaters are stolen for the resell value of the unit as these can be removed without damage to the unit,” says Paula.

“It’s also concerning that exterior water heating units can be taken without setting off security alarms. To onlookers or neighbouring residents, thieves may also appear to be carrying out work on properties when disconnecting these units.”

“We’re seeing most house burglaries occur around lunchtime or early afternoon,” says Paula, who notes that burglary claims have remained elevated following a peak in 2022, which coincided with New Zealanders returning to their worksites after the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.

As burglars show no regard for the damage they cause during break-ins, it’s not just stolen possessions that residents are left to replace.

AMI consumer brands executive general manager Paula ter Brake.

“Our data shows windows are the most common entry point for burglars, which contributes to repair costs. Glass panels are frequently smashed, and surrounding furniture often sustains malicious damage."

Other costly items being taken during house burglaries include electronic devices such as cameras, laptops and gaming consoles, and power tools as well as tool kits.

Top tips to prevent water heating system theft:

  • Carefully consider the location of gas water heating units to ensure they are not visible from the road.
  • Consider building an enclosure or cage around your exterior gas water heating unit.
  • Some homes have existing exterior copper spouting and gutters – homeowners should consider painting these with an oil-based paint to disguise.
  • Changing copper pipes to modern Buteline or similar may reduce temptation for theft.
  • When leaving the house unattended, create the appearance of occupancy. Turn on the radio or some lights. A parked car in the driveway, visible security cameras and even deterrent signs, such as surveillance warnings or ‘beware of dog’ signs, can deter burglars. 

Top five most commonly stolen items during house burglaries (by category):

  1. Clothing and shoes
  2. Electronic devices
  3. Power tools and gardening equipment
  4. Bikes and equipment - including e-bikes and e-scooters
  5. Sunglasses

House burglary claims volume ranked by region:

  1. Auckland Region (34.7 per cent)              
  2. Canterbury Region (20.4 per cent)          
  3. Waikato Region (11.9 per cent)
  4. Wellington Region (7.6 per cent)              
  5. Bay of Plenty Region (6.5 per cent)        
  6. Manawatū-Whanganui Region (4.7 per cent)
  7. Hawke's Bay Region (3.5 per cent)         
  8. Northland Region (3.2 per cent)               
  9. Otago Region (2.1 per cent)      
  10. Taranaki Region (1.2 per cent)
  11. Southland Region (1.1 per cent)
  12. Gisborne Region (0.7 per cent)
  13. Tasman Region (0.7 per cent)
  14. Nelson Region (0.7 per cent)
  15. Marlborough Region (0.6 per cent)
  16. West Coast Region (0.4 per cent)


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